Dec 312018

To mark the end of the year, a snippet repeated from Richard’s diary for 1790:aa2

I have not come across a record of the disaster – although the century seems to have been marked by a number of catastrophic drownings in the canals around Amsterdam, often linked to fog. The Gallery of Natural Phenomena refers to a general disaster on  14th December 1783

“Holland – Fog. Fatal accidents, Amsterdam; coaches fell into canals”

and presumably this was repeated at the end of the century. Meanwhile Richard did love his entries about extreme weather – it must have rounded off his year nicely! What is sad is to see that people are still drowning in considerable numbers in the Dutch capital – though probably this was as a result of drink rather than fog. Fifty one deaths by drowning occurred in the three years, between 2009 and 2011, only one of them as a result of crime… presumably the other fifty were accidents, or suicide. Since that date an average of 400 people a year have fallen into the Amsterdam canals – with  an average of 18 deaths occurring in every year. But for 230 to perish in a single night of dense fog, as in 1790, was truly tragic.

Post Script:   Since this wasoriginally  published I received corroboration of the events of 31st December 1790 from the ever-so-helpful Baldwin Hamey, who does a fascinating blog called London Details here. He referred me to this engraving. The caption apparently reads “In the heavy fog several people and a coach have gone into the water. Torches produce more light to see.”

It appears on this Dutch site  and copyright belongs to Amsterdam City Archives. Thanks Baldwin!


  2 Responses to “31st December 1790 revisited – not a night to be out and about in Amsterdam.”


    If a drunkard falls into water and drowns, it’s self inflicted and good riddance to them before they kill other people by driving into them, I say. The poor souls lost in the fog are another matter….


    Sorry, a bit late with my reaction. First of all: Happy New Year. Keep the posts coming!
    31 December 1790 was indeed a very foggy night in Amsterdam with coaches falling into the water. I found an engraving for you of the event The relevant bit in the description translates as “In the heavy fog several people and a coach have gone into the water. Torches are to produce more light to see by”.
    Felix Meritis, by the way, was a Society to promote arts and sciences and is still to be found in the same building you can see in the engraving. More info on their chequered history:
    Cheers, Baldwin

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